Millions of Americans are blind or live with low vision, but it can be hard for sighted people to really understand what it means to see the world as “legally blind.”
Now, a new online sight simulator shows how debilitating certain preventable eye diseases and conditions can be.
The simulator was created as part of See Now, a global campaign created by The Fred Hollows Foundation. The company, which works to end avoidable blindness and vision loss, created the simulator to show how the world looks if you have varying levels of cataracts, glaucoma or retinopathy.
Using Google Street View images, the tool allows you to search for everything from your childhood home to iconic landmarks across the world to get a sense of the three conditions. Some put dark blotches in your field of vision while others make things blurry and unfocused. All show how frustrating it can be to take in the world this way.
Here’s the Lincoln Memorial as seen by someone with severe retinopathy, which is damaged retinas often caused by diabetes.
The bright signs of Times Square in New York City, meanwhile, are harder to make out with even just moderate glaucoma, which is a disease affecting your optic nerve.
And nope, that’s not fog obscuring one of the iconic towers of the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area. A fairly severe cataract, or a clouded lens, make it hard to see a clear image.
Throughout the simulator, facts are sprinkled on the screen to tell you more specifics about how some 7.7 million Americans develop retinopathy from diabetes or how 2.7 million Americans have glaucoma, and how prevalent cataracts are for older Americans.
The Fred Hollows Foundation believes that many vision loss issues could be helped with better preventative care or even just a trip to an eye doctor. That’s why the organization has teamed up with Prevent Blindness, another nonprofit trying to end avoidable blindness, to petition Congress to dole out way more than the $3.8 million spent currently on preventative vision loss efforts.
So far their petition has more than 47,000 signatures — pretty close to the 50,000 goal to present to the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees to bring in an additional $6.3 million in federal funding toward preventative eye care.
That additional funding could definitely make a difference.